I was looking forward to attending as many days of Athayoganushasanam as possible this week but life had other plans. The place I work is severely shortstaffed and it didn’t seem fair to leave everything and take off for the entire week. So, I feel very lucky to have managed a day off to spend at Balewadi and soak in the words of Geetaji and others and watch the participants move.
I took down almost everything during the asana session, a lot of the pranayama and little of the exposition on Guruji’s quotes.
The asanas focused on forward bends and the pranayama session on ujjayi and brahmri. The instructions were the same crisp ones we usually get in class and while watching the different bodies move, I realised how much time it takes to get those movements right. The participants needed atleast 3 years of practice to be eligible to attend and that period was really scratching the surface as far as I could see. It put my impatience in perspective. I understand on a head level but the body finally moves in its own time.
The sequence was as follows
Adho mukha virasana
Adho mukha Svanasana
Urdhva hasta dandasana
Variations in sirsasana such as
– legs in parsvottanasana
– legs apart
Adho mukha virasana
Ek pada Sarvangasana
Ek pada Sarvangasana
Jumping to Setuband Sarvangasana and back
Except for the last jumping bit, this is a similar sequence in class, the difference being in that the focus was taken on all the actions required. Usually in our beginners class, while instructions are given on the main actions required, there is an underlying focus on one area.
One of the demonstrators on the stage had bow legs and I saw how the crisscross use of a belt by another person could help in getting the calves to go back. In her own words, “she felt more height which allowed her to go down in prasarita paddotanasana better”.
One of the comments Geetaji made was, “Exhaling is surrendering ” while the participants were in Paschimottansana for a long hold. She asked them to imagine weight on their spine and “surrender to the weight”.
Some other gems were “centre of your heart going down” and “open your heart to your legs”. I found these images very useful as a cue and she also remarked that, ” if thought differs from action, then it goes wrong”. As I understood it, this is a good way to keep focus while practising. Imagining that weight and keeping that complete image through all my senses would be a good way to get the right actions.
The pranayama session was very interesting since I do not practice it yet. I used to in my earlier class but have not since I started at RIMYI. Sometimes though I find my breath, especially in Viparita Karani, savasana or Supta virasana. A sort of calm and equal unruffled breath that naturally happens but for now, I stick to the basics.
Some of her guides in the session were
“As we begin to observe, in that observation, there is a process of looking”
“In the process of looking, there is some discipline which makes you aware of what is happening inside”
“If you are looking, sleep is not possible”
“Sternum is the guideline”
The afternoon session was an exposition on Guruji’s quotes by a few of his long time students and renowned teachers, Patchi, Birjoo, Zubin and Edwin.
They spoke beautifully and I just listened to their memories.
Patchi’s key message was how Guruji lived his belief of “all religions are valid ways of reaching God”
Birjoo spoke of the common threads in all religions and yoga, illustrating it with an example of the yamas as part of the Ten Commandments.
Zubin’s message was how all limbs of yoga were present not just in Guruji’s asana but also the way he lived his life. There was a little fact of how Guruji wore his watch and even that action of looking at the time was a chest opening action. Something I will do now.
This thought resonated with me as well. In my day to day movements and stillness I try to remember and keep the tallness of my spine. While running, I see how I can use what I have learnt in class and it has helped tremendously.
Edwin continued Zubin’s thought of Guruji’s practice being hi-tech and demonstrated how he used divine energy and not just his own power. He got someone to stand in urdhva hastasana and showed how the right action used energy more efficiently and that was hi-tech. A little energy to do larger work. My favourite line from that talk was, “gravity loves you”
This post does not capture the spirit or the energy of that stadium and I may not have understood correctly but I believe more will be revealed in time. Overall, I feel a sense of validation that my journey is on track as some of the observations in my practice, not just of asana, are along the lines of what the teachers speak. This is really just the beginning of the road and I hope I stay on it and not stray too far or too long.
In gratitude for everything.